Company scopes huge solar farm for Niagara County

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A California-based company – with several projects already in New York State – is proposing a huge solar farm in Niagara County.

On the border of the Towns of Cambria and Pendleton sits big stretches of land in either direction.
It’s mostly farmland, but a company called Cypress Creek Renewables sees potential.

“It has access to some high voltage transmission lines, which is really important when we site our projects,” said project co-developer Kevin Kohlstedt. “Second, there is relatively flat and clear land that doesn’t have significant forest on it.”

The company, which introduced the project – dubbed Bear Ridge Solar – to Cambria and Pendleton residents last fall, wants to build a 900 acre, 100 megawatt solar farm, with 750 of those acres in Cambria. The second public information meeting on the project was held Wednesday for residents.

So far, Pendleton councilman David Fischer says the two communities are on board.

“I think most people understood it. They asked questions about vegetation. Who’s going to mow it, are you going to upkeep it? They take care of it, they hire a landscaping crew. They’re going to plant flowers, hopefully for bees and butterflies for pollination,” said Fischer.

According to both Fischer and Kohlstedt, no one is losing his her land. The land proposed in the project is all farm land, and the farm owners are willing participants in leasing their land to Cypress Creek Renewables.

Then there’s a question of practicality. Is a solar farm practical in a region where the winters are long and gray? Kohlstedt said Cypress looks at something called solar irradiance, and they say we have a lot of it despite the clouds.

“An interesting fact on Western New York is that it’s at a similar irradiance level as the country of Germany, and Germany actually has the most solar penetration of any country, and so we think that’s a pretty good demonstration,” he said.

The company also promises a legal fund, in which $35,000 would be earmarked for any attorney fees incurred by residents.

“So I think it’s a good thing, and I think it’ll help drive down costs, and it’ll help…our environment tremendously,” Fischer said.

If the project moves forward in the future, it’s expected to create 220 full time jobs throughout construction, which should last about a year. There will also be longer term maintenance jobs that will require trades like electricians and landscapers.

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